Last year, Cascade Locks, a small town in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, passed a county-wide ballot measure that stopped Nestlé from building a new water bottling plant and trucking the town’s precious resource away for profit. This tremendous victory against the multinational corporation galvanized the region and inspired other towns to stand up for their right to protect their water. Last week, another victory ensued when the mayor of Goldendale, Washington, told Nestlé there’d be no deal making with his town.
This latest success story didn’t happen because of Nestlé’s lack of effort but because ordinary people flexed their citizen muscles and stood up for what they believed was right. This victory is what democracy in action looks like.
After Cascade Locks gave Nestlé the boot in 2016, the corporation quickly approached the town of Waitsburg, WA. Not only did the community and city council send Nestlé packing, but the town’s mayor was forced to resign after his shady back door dealings with Nestlé came to light. Soon after, Nestlé turned up again in nearby Goldendale, but they were ready. Learning from the strong activism of their neighbors, the community responded swiftly.
Seven months ago, Nestlé appeared on the city council agenda for the first time, and over 150 people attended the city hall meeting to make their voices heard. So many people came that the meeting had to be moved to a nearby church so that everyone could sit down. Then, they formed a community group (Goldendale Water Coalition), filed a public records request, and published a revealing op-ed in the local paper exposing the secretive correspondence between city officials and Nestlé. The community’s actions led to the mayor’s announcement that Goldendale will not be doing business with Nestlé in last week’s city council meeting
Once again, local citizen action turned the tide and stopped precious local water from being privatized and commodified by Nestlé. The more communities in the region that turn Nestlé away, the harder it’s going to be for the company to gain a foothold in the Columbia River Gorge or further afield in Oregon and Washington. Congratulations, Goldendale!